Dave Seddon's Pressview: New deal for goalkeeper Declan Rudd is good bit of business for Preston

Declan Rudd signing his new contract with Preston North End last week was a well received piece of news, irrespective of it coming during the lockdown.

Friday, 24th April 2020, 5:00 pm
Declan Rudd

Club and goalkeeper had been talking for a while and an unsigned deal had been on the table.

The clock was ticking with Rudd out of contract in the summer and in these uncertain times, being a free agent might not be the most appealing prospect.

Having to search for a new keeper was something PNE could have done without too.

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Had Rudd’s situation not have been resolved they would have addressed it, but having an experienced keeper in situ was obviously preferable.

This season Rudd had worked himself into a position where he was worth the offer of a new deal.

The campaign before there had been those errors which put doubt in the mind, in particular the clanger against Birmingham when he let a long distance shot bounce through him.

To be fair Rudd recovered quite quickly from that, keeping a clean sheet in the next game and repaying the faith Alex Neil showed.

His performance levels have gone up another notch this season, Rudd quick to point out how much he’s been helped by Jonathan Gould coming to the club.

Gould was appointed goalkeeping coach in August, his experience invaluable on the training ground.

When I interviewed Rudd at the back end of last week, he mentioned how well prepared he felt for games after time spent with Gould.

There have been fingers pointed at Rudd when goals have been conceded, in particular from crosses.

There was the Hull game when North End trailed at the interval and an exchange between keeper and fan on the Town End ensued.

Maybe more of a command of the six-yard box is an aspect of his game Rudd will work on with Gould.

However, it also needs the defenders in front of him to take responsibility too, not just let crosses fly over them.

In terms of shot-stopping though, Rudd has been very good and kept North End in games at times.

So to have held on to a keeper in good form who has struck up a good working relationship with his coach, is good business.

When you speak to Rudd, what is clear is that he had a close connection with PNE.

It is more than seven years since he first joined on loan from Norwich, arriving in the latter days of Graham Westley’s time in charge.

That season Westley had chopped and changed between Thorsten Stuckmann and Steve Simonsen in nets.

Simonsen had recently left the club after having his contract terminated, leaving Stuckmann and non-contract keeper Rhys Taylor to compete for the gloves.

Rudd was a young keeper looking for first-team experience and his debut came in the 3-1 defeat at Yeovil in February 2013 after which the axe fell on Westley.

For the next 18 months he was PNE’s first-choice keeper and after North End were beaten in the play-offs by Rotherham in 2014, Simon Grayson expressed a desire to bring Rudd back for a third loan.

That didn’t happen in the end, Norwich wanted to keep him and North End switched attention elsewhere.

Rudd was eventually to return, sealing a permanent move from the Canaries in June 2017.

He had to wait until early 2018 to unseat Chris Maxwell though, having picked-up an injury just a few minutes into the opening pre-season friendly at Bamber Bridge.

Since January 2018 Rudd has been pretty much PNE’s first-choice keeper, bar an eight-game spell when Maxwell wrestled the gloves back early last season.

When Rudd signed his new deal, North End boss Alex Neil emphasised the word ‘stability’.

He has trust in the keeper and seems to think that what budget is made available once this season is finally finished might be better spent in other areas.

What could need some attention going forward though, is the goalkeeper situation below Rudd.

Connor Ripley is No.2 to Rudd but hasn’t convinced since signing in January last year from Middlesbrough.

Just twice has Ripley been entrusted with the gloves in the Championship – the final two games of last season.

His last outing was in the FA Cup against Norwich, a game in which he made errors for two of the Canaries’ goals.

Then there’s the futures of Mathew Hudson and Michael Crowe, both of who are out of contract in June – or maybe a bit longer to cover the remainder of the season.

Although Hudson’s only first-team appearance for PNE came back in December 2015, he is still well thought of by management.

With EFL clubs needing to have a home-grown player in their match day squad, Hudson has met that criteria when Ben Davies hasn’t been available.

At some point soon though, Hudson needs to get games under his belt.

Crowe has been used sparingly in his time at PNE, just the one appearances in the FA Cup 15 months ago.

Of course the prospect of seeing some football still seems a long way off. It is seven weeks since North End last played, with the season halted a few days later.

Any plans for a resumption must at this stage be treated as provisional although it is a positive in the grand scheme of things that at least there is a date to work to.

That defeat to QPR on March 7 seems a long time ago and even if the best case scenario of the first weekend in June for games to resume does happen, that is another six weeks away.

Even if that happens, it could be many months before supporters are back in stadiums, with games having to be broadcast and streamed to meet public demand.

You just pray that in the weeks ahead, huge strides forward can be taken in helping to conquer the Covid-19 pandemic. Stay safe everyone.